Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 silent churches

Surprisingly for me, a few Christians are still using 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 to silence intelligent, godly, and gifted women in church meetings. Someone left a comment yesterday in response to my article “Did Priscilla teach Apollos?” and quoted 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in full, implying that Priscilla could not have taught Apollos because Paul did not allow women to speak in church.

Here are those two verses, and two more in 1 Corinthians 14, in the Christian Standard Bible.

… the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but are to submit themselves, as the law also says. If they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home, since it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church…
So then, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything is to be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 39-40 CSB (Italics added)

I wrote a reply which I have edited, added to, and posted here.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is not about prohibiting women from teaching. I suggest it is about silencing certain women in Corinth who wanted to learn but were asking too many basic or personal questions during church meetings. Paul’s solution to this problem is that these women should ask their questions to their typically more-educated husbands in the privacy of their homes.

Chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians is all about maintaining order and decorum in church gatherings and Paul silences the disorderly talk from tongues-speakers, prophets, and women. The same imperative Greek verb for “be silent” is used for each of these three groups of people.

~ A tongues-speaker, male or female, is to be silent (sigaō) and stop speaking in tongues if there is no one to interpret (1 Cor. 14:28 ESV).
~ A prophet, male or female, is to be silent (sigaō) and stop prophesying if someone else receives a revelation (1 Cor. 14:30).
~ Women are to be silent (sigaō) and stop asking questions if there is anything they want to learn (manthanō); they should keep their questions for home (1 Cor. 14:34-35). These questions may have been directed to the men and women prophesying: prophecy was so that everyone could learn (manthanō) and be encouraged (1 Cor. 14:31 CSB).

All these people need to hold their tongues and stop speaking in these situations. But 1 Corinthians 14 is not about silencing tongues-speakers, prophets, or women altogether.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40, which contains verses 34-35, is book-ended by verses that show the issue in Corinth was unruly, unedifying speech. In these book-ended verses, Paul encourages edifying and gifted speech, and he encourages orderly participation in church meetings, regardless of gender (1 Cor. 14:26, 39-40 CSB).

In 1 Corinthians chapter 11, Paul acknowledges that Corinthian women prayed and prophesied aloud in church gatherings, and he doesn’t silence them. Rather he addresses the hairstyles, or head-coverings, of both men and women who pray and prophecy (1 Cor. 11:5, 14-15 CSB). Furthermore, in chapters 12 and 14 of 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions several ministries, some of which are vocal, without saying that they are only for men (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:7-11, 28; 14:26 CSB).

This is my view of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in a nutshell. I look at several other views in a longer article entitled Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 here.
Dr Beth Allison Barr has written an interesting article here that looks at the idea that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is the Corinthian’s idea and not Paul’s.

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54 thoughts on “1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in a Nutshell

  1. I’ve never noticed the same verb used of each group! This is an awesome insight. Author John Bristow, in his book “What Paul Really Said about Women,” offered this insight from his experience at a Chinese mission:

    “My mother used to compare the situation in Corinth to the one she and my father faced in northern China. Back in the 1920’s when they were first to bring God’s message to that forgotten area, they found women with bound feet who seldom left their homes and who, unlike the men, had never in their whole lives attended a public meeting or a class. They had never been told as little girls, “Now you must sit still and listen to the teacher.” Their only concept of an assembly was a family feast where everyone talked at once.

    When these women came to my parents’ church and gathered on the women’s side of the sanctuary, they thought this was a chance to catch up on the news with their neighbors and to ask questions about the story of Jesus they were hearing. Needless to say, along with babies crying and toddlers running about, the women’s section got rather noisy! Add to that the temptation for the women to shout questions to their husbands across the aisle, and you can imagine the chaos. As my mother patiently tried to tell the woman that they should listen first and chitchat or ask questions later, she would mutter under her breath, Just like Corinth; it just couldn’t be more like Corinth.”

    The traditional interpretation, of assuming Paul is prohibiting women from speaking in church for all time, takes this verse right out of the context in which it was given.

    1. Yes, they’re all the same verb. The NSRV translates each occurrence as “be silent”. On the other hand, the NIV uses different English words to translate each of the three occurrences and only uses “silent” for women. Grrr

      Thanks for sharing the story! “Just like Corinth” for sure.

    2. The Bible is clear, so-called European Christians always trying to explain the Bible, it tells you clear for a woman not to teach in the church, or to be head of the Church.

      1. Hello Anth, It’s a good thing to explain what Bible passages mean.

        I know of no Bible verse that says “a woman is not to teach in the church” or “a woman is not to be head of the church.” These are your interpretations. This is not what the Bible actually says.

        No man or woman is the head of the church except for Jesus. Jesus is the head and we are the body. And as his body, we can all participate and share our gifts. In churches associated with Paul, both gifted men and women could participate with prayers, prophecies, teaching, and speaking in other edifying ways. See 1 Corinthians 14:39-30 CSB; Ephesians 5:18-19, Colossians 3:16.

        And nowhere in the New Testament does it state that any of the ministries that Paul lists in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, and Ephesians 4:11 are off-limits to a woman.

        Paul was silencing unedifying and unruly speech in the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. He was not silencing all speech. And we need to be very careful who we tell to be quiet, otherwise, we may be silencing the Spirit of God and quenching his gifts and power.

        “Each of you should use whatever gift (charisma) you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace (charis) in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

  2. I have read some articles which suggest that these verses were an interpolation added later and not in Paul’s original text at all. Do you think this view has any merit?

    1. Hi Matthew,

      Yes, there is credence to the idea that these verses may be an early interpolation. There are several textual variants involving 1 Cor. 14:34-35 in early manuscripts.

      I have a few paragraphs under the heading 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an Interpolation here: https://margmowczko.com/interpretations-applications-1-cor-14_34-35/

      On a purely subjective level. I remember happily reading through 1 Corinthians in the Greek New Testament and when I came to these two verses they didn’t seem to fit; they jarred stylistically.

  3. Personally, I believe that it is unlikely that all the men in the Corinthian church were educated. It is far more likely that many uneducated Gentile men were in attendance. Not only this, but it is clear from Paul’s letter that there were divisions and factions among them. They believed different things and many of them were contentious and unwilling to change their view. Furthermore, I do not believe that Paul would have thought that any woman’s question about Jesus Christ was a “nuisance”. He would have ensured that their questions were answered by someone who knew the gospel and taught it correctly. So I do not believe that Paul would have told wives to ask their husbands at home if they had questions. I believe that verses 34-35 is a quote of a faction of men who wrote Paul. The reference to the Law points to this as well because Paul has repeatedly stated that Christians are not under Law but under grace.

    1. Hi Kristen,

      The Greeks and Romans were pretty keen on education. In the first century, practically every city in the Roman Empire, including Corinth, had a gymnasium. These places had started out as places where athletes trained in the nude (gymnos), but by the first century they had developed into schools for the intellect as well as the body.

      Wealthy Romans bought educated Greek slaves to train their young sons, and, less frequently, their daughters also.

      1 Corinthians 14:34-35 does jar with the surrounding verses and may have been a quote from a faction. It doesn’t sound like Paul. In fact, the instruction to wives to ask their husbands in the context of learning is exactly the same kind of advice that the pagan Greeks gave to women (e.g., Plutarch).
      https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/plutarch-and-paul-on-men-and-women-and-marriage/

      1. The Greeks and Romans may have been educated in worldly things in the gymnasiums/schools, but they would have only been educated in the gospel if they heard the gospel from one of Jesus followers or heard the gospel in a church by someone who had been properly taught. It is likely that many of the men who were in the Corinthian church were newly saved and just learning the gospel themselves. There were also probably unsaved men in attendance who knew nothing about the gospel. There were also likely unmarried/divorced women in attendance who had no husbands (or family members) to ask. And like I said previously, there were divisions and factions among them.

        Also, if we look at 1 Timothy 2: 8 we can see that there was much wrath and dissention among the men in Ephesus which was causing them to lift up unholy hands towards one another. Paul did not silence the men or place them under a Law. Rather, he encouraged the men, in love and grace, to lift up holy hands without wrath and dissension. Encouraging people to do what was right, in love and grace, was Paul’s way. If Paul encouraged the men (who were angrily arguing) in love and grace, then why wouldn’t he do the same if women were asking questions about Jesus Christ? If Paul heard that the women were so thirsty for the gospel that they were asking questions during the church meeting, then I’m sure that he would have encouraged them, in love and grace, to hold their questions until the end and would have assured them that all of their questions would be answered. Paul would have been so overjoyed to know that so many women were so thirsty for the gospel and would have appointed someone who was knowledgeable and trustworthy to teach them. So to say that Paul would have silenced women (for asking questions about Jesus Christ), and then place them under a Law (when he repeatedly says that we are under grace), and then tell them to ask their (unsaved, uneducated, divisive) husbands at home is, for me, an impossibility. Verses 34-35 are definitely the words of a faction of men who wrote him. You even said yourself that verses 34-35 do not sound like Paul and that it was the same advice that the pagan Greeks (and Jewish men who silenced women) gave to women.

        1. Your absolutely correct. Only the men who had a Jewish background would have had the advantage of an education that involved learning about the true God.

          I suspect that the questions the women were asking were very basic, nuisance questions, and not necessarily about Jesus. But then again, these verses my have been an interpolation, or Paul may have been quoting a faction who was getting it wrong. I mention these other interpretations here: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/interpretations-applications-1-cor-14_34-35/

          1. To try to say that women in church were asking questions that were not related to Jesus is a stretch. So is the argument that all the women were mindlessly chatting during the service. Even if this were true, Paul would exhort them in love and grace to refrain from talking during the service.

            But I’m glad that you believe that verses 34-35 may have been a quote. I just wish that it was your first line of defense to men who use these verses to say that Paul did not allow women to speak in church. Judy made an excellent point, that verse 36 is a refutation of the two previous verses. I agree with her. Paul would not have refuted his own words. The refutation does not fit with the scenario that Paul was silencing women who were asking nuisance questions. And as I see it, the refutation does not fit with the interpolation theory either.

      2. Hello Marg, Stumbled on this (google) Defending this view in a youtube response. I have always believed that 1 Cor 14:34,35 was a Corinthian idiom (as is 1Cor 6:12). Simply because read properly, Paul refutes the statement. I believe the KJV has the correct word in the initial response in verse 36 when it uses the word “What?” followed by the rhetorical question, making sense that “you only” is speaking about men, and not the Corinthian church, seeing as he was talking about women. Other versions leave you feeling that Paul has changed the subject mid-topic. It just doesn’t feel grammatically coherent. (thoughts?)
        However, we do have a bit of a dilemma in 1Tim 2:11-14. It does suggest that a woman is not to have authority “over” a man. But, does it forbid women from teaching, I don’t think so. Scripture interprets Scripture, there are far too many texts to support women in ministry. Some are even mentioned by name. This fact cannot be ignored. Finally, the first people to pronounce/preach the risen Christ were women. Funny that.

        1. Hi Alain,

          The idea that Paul presents a Corinthian idea in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and then counters it in following verses beginning with the exclamation what?! (as in 1 Cor. 14:36 KJV) is one possible, and plausible, interpretation. (The KJV translates the tiny Greek word η as “what?” at the beginning of the first phrase verse 36, but translates that same word as “or” at the beginning of the second phrase in verse 36.) I’ve written about this interpretation briefly here.

          There is no dilemma with 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Paul does not permit a woman, who needed to learn (1 Tim. 2:11), from teaching. And he does not her permit her from domineering a man, probably her husband. The uncommon Greek verb authentein used in 1 Timothy 2:12 does not refer to a healthy kind of authority. Paul was disallowing poor teaching and bad behaviour from an Ephesian woman.

          I have an “in a nutshell” article about 1 Timothy 2:12 here. But I have more indpeth articles that look at the language and historical and literary contexts of 1 Timothy 2:12 here.

  4. I also wonder how Corinth’s female prophets prophesied in silence, if 1 Cor 14:34-35 meant what some people say it does.

    1. Yep. We can’t take one verse or passage and apply it in isolation of what other verses say on the subject of women speaking in church.

  5. I see this differently:

    1 Cor 7:1 begins “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote to me:” Paul then proceeds to answer their questions…by chapter 14 he is addressing the request of the Judaizers who wish to silence women ‘AS SAITH THE LAW’…there is no law in the Bible so Paul is not writing this as his own view for he empatically denies that we are still under the law, but under grace. The law THEY are talking about is in the Jewish regulations that are anti-woman. Why would Paul tell new female believers to ask any man at home when many of them would not have believing husbands…only a Judaizer would suggest such at thing because he would expect the women in the synagogue to be married to Jewish men.

    Finally, if Paul wrote this why is vers 36 a REFUTATION of the previous two verses? Why does Paul say “WHAT!!!!” and then ” came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?”

    Paul’s response shows that he did not write the verses 34-35…of why would he be responding to them in this manner?

    He clearly does not agree with those two verses…and is taking the writers to task.

    As Ancient Greek had no quotation marks we simply do not have them to show that Paul is addressing their question, one of many dealt with from chapter 7 onward.

    That is how I see it anyway.

    1. You could well be correct, Judy.

    2. I have seen more than one Bible translation that link the law mentioned in 1 Cor. 14,35 to Gen. 3,16. This always seemed to me like they are desperate to find a fitting Bible passage. Gen. 3,16 is a statement describing the consequence of sin, and even if one would read it as God’s will for Christians (which I don’t), it seems “nature” or “creation principles” would describe it much better than the word “law”.

  6. If Paul really felt women should be silent, why is it not in every letter he wrote to individual churches? Why wouldn’t he be gender-specific in each of his lists of spiritual gifts? 1 Cor 14 and 2 Timothy 2 are the only instances that can be cited in support of a view that women are to be silent in the church. This would effect half the church in how they use their spiritual gifts. Wouldn’t he have been more clear if this was a “rule” that every church should enforce?

    1. I see 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:12 as dealing with certain kinds of undesirable speech. These verses were addressing specific problems rather than making broad and universal injunctions.
      Paul’s more general teaching on ministry is gender-inclusive.

  7. Hi Kristen,

    I fully acknowledge that there are several ways that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 can be interpreted. And several of these ways, including the interpolation and quote interpretation, have validity and merit.

    My preferred interpretation, which I don’t hold on to adamantly (because I don’t think we can know with 100% certainty) is based on a few keys words (they want to learn-μαθεῖν θέλουσιν, let them ask-ἐπερωτάτωσαν, ignorant-ἀγνοεῖ), plus the “ifs”. My view takes into consideration the way teaching and learning occurred in the 1st century, plus, of course, it considers the context of the unruly meetings in Corinth.

    If you get a chance, you might want to see what Ben Witherington and Craig Keener say on this in my longer article. But, I don’t want to dissuade you from your view as it is very credible.

  8. On my chapter on this verse in my doctoral dissertation, I essentially argue the same. Ciampa and Rosner’s Pillar Commentary on 1 Corinthians is probably the best resource available on this text to my knowledge (for those who want further study). On the surface, it seems like Paul is saying the absurd, but subtle textual clues narrows the scope of his focus.

    1. Thanks for this Jamin. I’ll see if my university has that commentary.

      Have you submitted your dissertation yet?

  9. Catherine Bushnell’s chapter on this passage in the booklet “Covet to Prophesy” is excellent:

    http://godswordtowomen.org/covet.htm

    Her logic is compelling: Paul has just urged the Corinthians (both men and women) to “strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy.” How can he, a few verses later, say that all women should be silent in Church?

    It is clear that he is quoting from the Judaizers and their teaching of the Oral Law of the Jews (there is no Old Testament Law which demands that women be silent). Paul’s response to the Judaizers is: “What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only it has reached?” He then repeats his encouragement: “earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues”, which implies that the women also should earnestly desire to prophesy, and that nobody should forbid the women from speaking.

    Catherine Bushnell concludes:

    Verse 39. “Wherefore,” his final conclusion from what goes before. How strangely inapt it would be if the Apostle had just said in his own intention, “Let your women keep silence.”

    “Let your women keep silence, wherefore covet to prophesy.”

    “Let your women keep silence, wherefore forbid not to speak with tongues.” But as a conclusion rendered in the plain language of a judicial statement, resting upon his reminder by a question that the word of God neither came from them nor upon them only, its fitness cannot be questioned.

    “The word of God came not unto you, wherefore forbid not to speak.”

    The expression, “covet to prophesy,” deserves attention here. It is the positive admonition of that which is negatively put by the Apostle in 1 Thess. 5:19, 20. Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings. It relates not properly to the individual, but to the whole body. Covet the to prophesy is the literal reading, and it means, “covet the prophesying,” that is, the gift itself, both for one’s own and for others exercise. As Moses, having the gift himself, refused the jealousy that would restrict but expressed the zeal that would make universal the gift of prophecy. See Numbers 11:29 where in the Septuagint the same Greek words are employed for “envy” and “forbid” as here.

    Verse 40. “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Joshua would have had Eldad and Medad at least as “out of order,” forbidden to prophesy–out of jealousy for his lord, Moses. Moses would, in his jealousy for God’s honor, have had all the people prophesy. This was his conception of decency and order. We say again, one is almost compelled to believe that in all three of these passages where the Apostle makes such striking use of the word “covet” (12:31; 14:1; and 14:39), he has direct reference to Moses’ desire that all the people of God should be prophets (Num. 11:29), as the true pattern of emulation for each Christian believer.

  10. I ask this question not with the typical condescending attitude of the Complementarian, but with a sincere desire to learn, and open ears to listen.

    If what Paul is warning against in 1 Corinthians 14:34 is just idle chitchat or unwelcome interruptions, without necessarily forbidding women to speak at all times, then why does the next verse state that it is “a shame” (αἰσχρὸν) for a woman to “speak” (λαλεῖν) in church?

    The Greek word translated as “a shame” is also used in Ephesians 5:11-12 —> «And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.» Therefore we can know the gravity for a woman to “speak” according to Paul — but the doubt is still there: by “speaking” does he mean idle chatting? Or all speaking?

    The Greek word translated as ‘speak’ here is λαλεῖν, and I can’t find a single ocurrence of this word in the new testament that even hints to “idle chatting”: http://biblehub.com/greek/lalein_2980.htm

    So based on what do you claim that Paul only prohibits speaking under certain circumstances, and not all?

    God bless you.

    1. Alex, have you actually read this article? Your comments do not seem to correspond with, or relate to, what I’ve written.

      Nowhere do I state that the problem Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was idle chitchat. λαλ- words are used 27 times in 1 Corinthians 14. 27 times!!! And none of these are in the context of idle chitchat.

      λαλ- words occur in the three passages looked at in the article. As well as 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, λαλ- words occur in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 (twice) in the context of speaking in tongues, and in 1 Corinthians 14:29-31 (once) in the context of prophets speaking. Both men and women spoke in tongues and were prophets in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 11:5; 14:26; cf. Acts 2:17-18). That women prophesied in the Corinthian church is further attested here.

      The three calls for silence in 1 Corinthians 14 were each given in response to three specific “speaking” situations that were occurring during gatherings of churches in Corinth (1 Cor. 14:28, 30, 34). 1 Corinthians 14:35 indicates the kind of speaking some women were engaging in; these women wanted to learn and were asking questions. Paul provides the solution: they should ask their husbands at home. Obviously, this instruction applies to husbands who knew more than their wives, and hints that some women were poorly educated.

      The honour-shame dynamic was intrinsic in the first-century Mediterranean world, and the concept of “shame” was readily applied to unacceptable demeanour and behaviour of women. The Greco-Roman concept does not correspond precisely with the concept of “shame” in modern western society. More on honour-shame here.

      The basis of my claim that Paul prohibited three kinds of speaking in three specific circumstances is outlined in the article.

      1. My bad. I apologize for this confusion.

        I have another question. There are quite a few theologians who don’t believe 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 to have been included in the chapter originally, rather being a late work by scribes. Do you think this is an appropiate argument?

        1. Hi Alex,

          Yes, there are quite a few scholars who have a high view of the inspiration and authority Scripture and who suggest 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 may be an interpolation (i.e. inserted addition). There are several reasons for this idea. I mention the interpolation idea briefly in this article here.

          Philip Payne has an article where he explains the evidence which indicates 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 may be an interpolation, here.

          Several interpolations have been included in older manuscripts and translations of the New Testament. The most well-known interpolation, called the Johannine Comma, is found in 1 John 5:7-8 in some Bibles/New Testaments. Another interpolation, which has some variants, is a longer ending of the Gospel of Mark. Still another interpolation is the story of the woman caught in adultery found John 7:53-8:11. Each of these interpolations has a different history about how it came about.

          Despite these interpolations and a few other variants, the authenticity and reliability of the New Testament is secure. (More on this here.)

          I’m personally not convinced 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an interpolation, but I do understand why others think it is a possibility.

          1. I looked up the link to the HonorShame website, and I found an article about Paul’s honor ethic in 1 Corinthians. It does not mention 1 Corinthians 14, but it mentions 1 Corinthians 11. It makes the statement that for Paul, what is honorable is right, and what is shameful is wrong. When Paul uses the word shame in 1 Corinthians 14:35, do you think he is specifically talking about the woman’s questions? If so, why do you think he appealed to shame in this context? Is it possible that Paul only wanted women to prophesy outside of the church meetings?

          2. Hi Elizabeth, In the article, I suggest the women’s shameful speech was asking too many nuisance questions which Paul says the women should keep for home. Some of the women were being disorderly and that was a disgrace. What they were doing was wrong and it would have brought to shame on their husbands. (That’s how society worked then.)

            On the other hand, in 1 Corinthians 14 and elsewhere, Paul encourages prophesying, speaking in tongues, and other ministries without stating, or even hinting, that this is somehow inappropriate for women. In fact, Paul bookends his instructions about disorderly, unedifying speaking from some prophets, tongues-speakers, and women in Corinth by saying:

            “What then, brothers and sisters? Whenever you come together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a revelation, another tongue, or an interpretation. Everything is to be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26 CSB; cf. Col. 3:16 CSB).

            And, “So then, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in other tongues. But everything is to be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:39-40 CSB).

            All of Paul’s general teaching on ministry includes men and women (Rom. 12:6-8 CSB; Eph. 4:11-12 CSB; etc). But he corrects bad behaviour from men and from women too. And sometimes the bad behaviour was gender-specific.

            Also, church meetings were very different in the mid-first century than in most churches today. Many churches met in homes. Sometimes these homes were owned and run by women. Women spoke in such gatherings, and Paul did not silence them. Paul does not silence all the Corinthian women, but in 1 Cor. 11 he does correct the appearance of the hair or heads of the men and the women who were praying and prophesying aloud in Corinthian assemblies.

            What’s the point of prophesying if no one can hear you?

            1 Corinthians 11:2-16, including verse 7, is all about honour/glory and shame/disgrace. I write about it here:
            https://margmowczko.com/man-woman-image-glory-god-1-corinthians-11-7/

  11. well that is The perfect definition for an exegesis completely out of context. Until you can vividly prove as to where in 1 Corinthians 14 that it was stated “the educated” and “the uneducated”, your submission are just a mere interpretation to suit your own personal desires. Kindly revisit the passage and note that scripture never contradicts so that you wouldn’t established your own doctrines as commandments of men. Thanks

    1. Hello Anonymous,

      My interpretation is grounded in the text. The infinitive mathein, meaning “to learn”, occurs in 1 Corinthians 14:35: “If they want to learn let them ask their own husbands at home.” This implies that certain women in the Corinthians church lacked knowledge, or an education, that their husbands had.

      Also, after asking rhetorical questions, which express the apostle’s disapproval of arrogance among certain Corinthians, the theme of ignorance is picked up again in verse 38. Here the verb for being ignorant (agnoeō) occurs twice: “If anyone is ignorant, let him/her be ignorant (or ignored).

      Anonymous, considering that Paul acknowledged that women prayed and prophecied aloud in gatherings of the Corinthian church and he did not tell them to stop (1 Cor. 11:5), and considering that Paul’s general teaching about ministry does not specify gender in any way (1 Cor. 12:1-31; 14:26, 40), and considering that Paul encourages all the Corinthian Christians to “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Cor. 14:1ff), what is your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 that doesn’t contradict these scriptures in 1 Corinthians?

      May I suggest that if you want to be taken seriously, you use your real name when leaving comments? It is hard to respect the words of a person who does not want to be identified with what he or she says.

  12. What a wonderful thread! I am a new comer here and find great joy in some like mindedness on this subject.

    Many years ago, more than 40…, a sweet young woman, married to a great guy asked toward the end of a wonderful weekly Bible study in our home, “Why do I have to wait until I get home to ask my husband what is being said here tonight?”, of course referring to 1 Cor. 14:34. We, up to then, had been dealing with the issues of tongues speaking immediately prior in our 1 Cor. 14 text of interest. She had read ahead a bit.

    I did the teacher’s gulp and stammered out the standard, “Let’s all read this in context and see what’s being said.” And whipped off a quick prayer… Being good readers they busily went through 1Cor. 12:1 thru14:39. We were using T. Norton Sterrett’s “How to Understand Your Bible” as a sort of hermeneutical base, though I had avoided this scary term. It was a large class, of about 25, 50% of whom were college graduates. They polished off the reading in a matter of a few minutes. In the meantime, working with my KJV, I read and reread the text of interest several times in immediate context and Lo-and-Behold, the term “What” (1 Cor. 14: 36) jumped out at me. I had seen this several times earlier in the epistle. It had been used in a sharply rhetorical sense (exclamatory) each time. (cf. 1 Cor. 6:16, 6:19, 11:22 and here.) It was part of Paul’s rhetorical weaponry, an interesting study in itself…

    Upon resumption I asked for input from the group. Immediately someone who had a side-by-side translation had an interesting comment. I have since taught the benefits of comparative reading of different translations. I have four questions in my outline: a) Is there a difference? b) What specifically is the difference? c) What difference does it make? And finally, d) Why did they (the translators) do that??? Hmmmm…

    He had noted that KJV had the phrase, “as in all the churches.” affixed to the end of v. 33 and that the parallel NIV had the phrase prefixed to v. 34, “As in all the “congregations” of the saints let the women keep silent…” Yes, quite a difference here!

    This lead to a short discussion of the distinction between “congregations” and “churches.” I quickly dug it out in my Greek text and would you believe, there I had my answer for the sweet young wife who was struggling on Sundays in a church where the women were forbidden to speak at all; as well as the Congregations vs Churches thing; both the same word in the Greek text. Then one of the class showed great perception. “Doesn’t this create a bit of a redundancy in the NIV at this point?” (churches… churches…) The class was coming alive. We were going overtime.

    I noted for them that Paul probably had a scribe and was dictating the epistle in a fashion that someone in the meeting on the receiving end could read the epistle orally in the meeting, a common practice, with rhetorical nuance if so inclined, so he spoke/dictated as though he were right there. This was and still is somewhat speculative on my part but a study of communication, speaking and writing in the culture in that part of the world at that time makes it a high probability.

    We as well as the fractious bunch at Corinth could not miss his ever growing frustration as he wrote. Can we miss that by the time he had gotten to this point in the letter that Paul was really frustrated??? In Ch. 14 he dealt with the challenges that come with the gifts of utterance. At 1 Cor. 14:26 he stunningly begins his summation with a rhetorical, “ What shall we say…?” This rhetorical question wreaks of frustration.

    By going with the KJV at vv. 33-38 it was an easy do for this teacher of the Word.

    By near consensus scholars of the Classics agree that Paul was one of the great users of language of all time. He had left the sages at Mars Hill stroking their beards saying, “we will hear thee again on this matter.” i.e. come back later. Paul wasn’t too shabby in the big leagues.

    It was very clear to all in the living room as well as it must have been at cosmopolitan Corinth, that he had reached his limits. Read rhetorically vv. 33-38 may have sounded like this; yes, I did this dramatic reading shamelessly in the class that evening. The KJV doesn’t need any changes just different vocal inflection:

    v.33 “God is not the author of confusion… but of peace as in all the churches of the saints! (The Apostle comes out of the gate with an attitude of firm insistence.)

    v.34 (to be read rhetorically as an implied assumed to be true condition with rising indignation in his voice… we all know how to do this, ask the kids.) “Let your women keep silence in the churches for it is not permitted unto them to speak!!!???; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law!!!???

    v.36 “WHAT !!!???” (with sharp indignation with outrage) “Came the word of God out from you!!?? Or came it unto you (with rising voice reaching climax proportions) ONLY !!!???”

    v.37 (dropping back a bit in tone and fervor… speaking with a manner of finality) “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual (on spiritual here, see 1 Cor 2:15 and 12:1; all the same word), let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are of the Lord… ”

    v.38 (an idiomatic expression which the hearers would easily understand, a phrase of finality) “If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant!”

    Now vented, the Apostle summarizes regarding the meeting…, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” This would include a new way for them to treat women in the meeting… and yes, 1 Timothy 2:12 also yields to descent exegesis…

    Russ Newell
    Liverpool, NY
    9/04/18

    1. Hi Russ,

      Thanks for your comment. It does make a big difference on the meaning depending on which phrase we attach “in all the churches” to. And I do like the KJV translation of verse 38.

      (I removed your email address from your comment. Otherwise, you might start getting lots of nuisance spam in your email inbox.)

  13. Then they should change what is written in the bible. They could have written “Ignorant and uneducated women” instead of just “women”, right?

    1. Hi Cio,

      Paul’s letters are great just the way they are. They do not need to be changed. We don’t want to tamper with or lose Paul’s voice. What we do to need is try and understand his letters as his original audiences would have understood them. Sometimes this can be difficult, but Paul gives enough information for us to piece together the context of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. And his overall concern in these verses is that “everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14:26) and that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Cor. 14:40).

      The Corinthians were aware that their meetings were unruly (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33). Their meetings were being dominated and disrupted by certain people, men and women, who were speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:27-28) and by certain people, men and women, who were prophesying (1 Cor. 14:29-32). So Paul puts limits on these ministers and their ministries. The meetings were also being disrupted by some married women. Paul’s solution here is that the wives keep their questions for home where they can ask their more knowledgeable, or more educated, husbands. He literally says, “If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home …”

      Paul does not silence all speech of all women in 1 Cor. 14:34-35, just disruptive speech which is disgraceful.

      In other parts of his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle mentions vocal ministries (including prophecy and teaching, etc) and gives not the slightest hint that they are out of bounds for women (1 Cor. 12:8-11; 28-31; 14:26, 39-40 NIV). Moreover, in 1 Cor. 11:5, Paul acknowledges that women pray and prophesy in Corinthian assemblies, and he does not silence them. Instead, he gives them instructions about the appearance of their head/hair while they pray and prophecy. More about 1 Cor. 11:2-16 here.

      None of Paul’s lists of ministries in 1 Corinthians, or in Romans 12:6-8, or in Ephesians 4:11, give any hint that these ministries are only for men. He did not write one list of ministries for men and another for women. According to Paul, the means of ministry is gifts, grace, and faith, not gender. More on this here.

      And then we have Peter’s words in Acts 2 where he quotes from the Old Testament:

      “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh (i.e. all people).
      Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
      your youth will see visions, your seniors will dream dreams.
      Even on my male servants and on my female servants
      I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Acts 2:17-18

      I’ll finish with Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 14:26 NIV:

      “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (cf. Col. 3:16).

      I’m very grateful for Paul’s voice.

  14. I was recently reading these verses, and I noticed that the NKJV includes an “And” at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 14:35. I looked this verse up in an interlinear and saw that the Greek word “de” was in 1 Corinthians 14:35, and I found out that it can be translated as “however, on the other hand”, etc. I was curious about why this word is usually left untranslated in this verse? Also, if this word does mean “however” in this verse, would that mean that verse 35 is addressing a different issue?

    1. Hi Taylor, Depending on the author, Greek sentences often begin with a conjunction, often in the post-positive position. (That is, the conjunction is the second, or sometimes the third or fourth word in the sentence.) English sentences do not begin with conjunctions nearly as much, so sometimes the conjunction is left untranslated.

      De can be translated in a variety of ways. Often it means “and” or “but.” However, it often just functions to mark a new sentence. So sometimes it’s translated as “now” or it’s left untranslated.

      I really don’t know how I would translate the de in 1 Corinthians 14:35 in a meaningful way. I prefer to leave it untranslated, but if I had to choose a word, I’d go with “moreover”: “Moreover, if they want to learn something . . .”

      “However” doesn’t seem to fit the context.

      1. That’s interesting, thank you. I was wondering, why do you think the women would have had more of a problem with asking disruptive questions than men? I was reading your review of Dr. Smith’s “God’s Good Design,” and I was interested in the discussion about women’s negative speech. Do you think that could have contributed to this concern, and be part of why women are specifically addressed?

        1. I think there are two things going on here.

          (1) Many of the women were less educated than the men and were asking too many basic questions that were disrupting the flow of the meetings. So Paul tells the wives that, if they want to learn something, they can ask their husbands at home: “If they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home” (1 Corinthians 14:35 CSB).

          (2) In broader society, it was often not socially acceptable for women to speak up in public settings, or semi-public settings. But class came into it too. So a high-status or wealthy woman could speak in some public and semi-public settings, especially if she was the host or patron of an event.

          In church gatherings, things were more egalitarian and gifted women could speak as well as men. Paul mentions both men and women who were praying and prophesying and does not silence them (1 Cor. 11:5). But a wife who was speaking too much or in a disruptive manner would have brought disgrace to her husband. In this context, Paul writes, “… it is disgraceful (aischros) for a woman to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14:35 CSB).

          Aischros is “a term especially significant in honor-shame oriented society” (such as the first-century Greco-Roman world) and it generally refers “to that which fails to meet expected moral and cultural standards.”
          Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition, (BDAG) revised and edited by F.W Danker, s.v. αἰσχρός, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 29.

          Still, there was a considerable number of relatively wealthy women in the first-century church (e.g., Lydia, Phoebe, Nympha). These women, especially if the church was meeting in their own home, would have had the social freedom, even the social expectation, to speak.

          1. That makes sense, thank you. Though, one thing that I still don’t quite understand is why Paul would only silence uneducated women, and not uneducated and disruptive people in general. Was the difference in education that different? I’m also curious, in Corinth, do you think many of the women in the church would have been high status and wealthy women who would have been expected to speak?

          2. Paul silences all the people who were being disruptive: certain prophets (male and female), certain tongues speakers (male and female), and certain women who wanted to learn. These people didn’t know when to be quiet. These three groups of people were the ones who were causing problems.

            There would have been ignorant men in the Corinthian church, but they were not the ones asking nuisance questions. So Paul doesn’t need to silence them. And also, if some men were speaking a bit too much, it would not have been quite the same in the honour-shame culture as a woman speaking too much. Paul does consider broader social conventions for the sake of the church’s witness. (1 Cor. 11:2-16 is all about the socially respectable appearance of men and women who were praying and prophecying aloud in church gatherings. See here.)

            I don’t think there would have been much difference in education between the poorer people. They would not have been educated much, if at all. But there would have been a big difference between the education of wealthier men and women. But there was no hard and fast rule. Some of the wealthiest women in ancient societies were very well educated. Christianity encouraged the education of women. So in the 300s, for example, we see a couple of aristocratic women who could read Hebrew and Greek and helped Jerome translate the Bible into Latin. See here.

            I’m not saying all wealthy women were expected to speak. But I am saying a female house-church leader (someone like Chloe who was a relatively wealthy woman living in Corinth) would not have been silent in a church she hosted and cared for. And Phoebe who was fairly wealthy and who lived in Cenchrea, a port of Corinth, would have spoken in meetings. And, of course, female prophets would have spoken in meetings whether wealthy or not.

            There are a couple of ancient, non-biblical texts that mention two female prophetesses in the Corinthian church. “3 Corinthians and “Fragment 9” are just two of many early Christian documents that show women were active in prominent speaking ministries in the first and early second-century church. It also shows that their ministry was accepted and respected, and indeed that the ministry of women was not regarded as unusual.” From here.

  15. Thank you, that’s very helpful. I do have one last question. I ran across something that mentioned that women speaking with men other than her husband would have been unseemly, and possibly interpreted sexually. I have also seen someone who noted that one of the reasons women were told to ask their own husband may have been because they asked men other than their husbands questions, which would have been improper, and possibly seen as sexual availability. I was wondering if that was true? I’ve heard that wives talking to men could have been seen as scandalous in some situations in that culture, but I do wonder if that would have been relevant here.

    1. There were some settings where women, especially upper-class Greek women, had to be careful who they talked to. First-century Roman and Macedonian women had more social freedoms than Greek women, but being alone with an unrelated man was not a good idea.

      On the other hand, all women would have spoken to fathers, sons, brothers, and uncles, as well as husbands, with no social difficulty. And first-century churches were very much like families; men and women were brothers and sisters.

      All we have to do is read the New Testament and see that non-related men and women spoke to each other.

      The “someone” you mention didn’t seem to factor in that a woman with a question can also ask a woman such as Lydia, Priscilla, Joanna or Mary Magdalene. It wasn’t just men with the theological answers. As I’ve said, I suspect the women who needed to be silent were asking too many basic questions in a disruptive manner, questions they could keep for home.

  16. Just as additional context, for those of us who grew up with a set Order of Service printed on a bulletin everyone received upon entering the church, or faith traditions that follow a liturgy to the letter, it’s hard to appreciate how “freeform”–sorry, the best word I can think of–the Corinthian gatherings would have been by comparison.

    The closest approximation I can think of is some “charismatic”–another hackneyed term, unfortunately–services that allow a significant segment of time for prophesying, tongues with interpretations, or revelations along the lines of what Paul approves but with the caveat that everything must be orderly.

    Having been in more than a few of those types of gatherings, I can see Paul’s wisdom in controlling the flow with specific instructions is amply justified. Also, any injunction to “keep silent” cannot be viewed through the legalistic lens that many persons use in coming up with myriad rules and regulations that resemble the pharisaic definitions of “work” prohibited on the Sabbath. Those restrictions are intended to catalyze and cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in the assembly, not to quench it.

  17. This is very good. I too have studied about it and agree with you. One small correction starting of the message says “..silence intelligent, godly and gifted women in church ” . if you mention small letter in “godly”, it denotes idol gods. So, please say “Godly women” with capital “G”.

    1. Thank you, Prabakar.

      The custom in Australia, where I live, is to use a capital (upper-case) letter when writing the nouns “God” and the “Bible.” A lower-case “g” is used when referring to pagan gods and idols.

      But our custom is not to use a capital letter for the adjectives “godly” and “biblical.” In the article, context shows that the women are followers of the God of the Bible and are not idolators.

  18. My preferred reading is as a quote from Corinth that Paul repudiates, but accept that there are other possible ways to see it. I do think a comp reading is possible when just considering this teaching unit, but is not correct based on other things in Scripture. So the most important thing is for each person to have a preferred reading that is egal.

    1. Yes, the ‘refutation’ idea is entirely possible.

  19. Something has come to my attention about the word “shame” used in 1 Corinthians 14:35, and I was wondering what your thoughts are on this since you know Greek. I know shame can mean cultural disgrace and not correspond to sin, but the word with shame in Colossians 3:8 and the mention of shameful gain in Titus 1:11 seem to show it can correspond to sin. I also noticed that in Thayer’s lexicon, it can correspond to something being base. How can we tell whether cultural disgrace or moral standards is meant by this word? Or do you think that it matters in this case?

    1. Hi Taylor,
      The word translated as “shameful” or “disgraceful” here, aischros, can have a range of intensities and nuances. In 1 Corinthians 14:35, aischros refers to the cultural disgrace (i.e. shame) a woman can cause her husband when she speaks in a culturally inappropriate way, such as asking nuisance questions that bring disorder to church gatherings.

      All of Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 are designed to encourage edifying speech from spiritually-gifted speakers (1 Cor. 14:26) and discourage disorderly speech (1 Cor. 14:40).

      1. 1 Timothy 2:9-14 KJV
        [9] In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; [10] But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. [11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
        Verse 13 and 14 clarify pretty well why Paul said women should not teach in the church. I’m sick and tired of male chauvinistic people in the churches as well and especially in marriages! But to me it’s pretty clear hear what the Bible is saying and why.

        1. Hi Sam,

          The passage that you quoted may seem clear to you in the English translation but it raises a few questions.

          ~ Why does Paul switch from plural language when correcting the bad behaviour of some men (plural) who had anger issues in 1 Timothy 2:8, and the bad behaviour of some women (plural) who were wearing opulent clothing in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, to singular language when correcting the bad behaviour of a woman (singular) who needed to learn and not teach or dominate a man (singular)?

          ~ Is there one prohibition (a hendiadys) in 1 Timothy 2:12, or two? If there is one prohibition, then Paul is prohibiting the “domineering teaching” of a woman.

          I read 1 Timothy 2:12 as containing two prohibitions. But if there are two, then the Greek word for “man” is not grammatically connected to the Greek word “to teach.” So 1 Timothy 2:12 may be understood as saying that (1) a woman is not allowed to teach [anyone] and (2) she is not allowed to dominate a man.

          ~ What part of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 mentions that Paul is talking about a woman teaching in a church meeting? And how does verse 15, which is part of this paragraph, fit with this?

          ~ Why does Paul include a correct summary statement of Genesis 2 and a correct summary statement of Genesis 3 in verses 13 and 14? Paul doesn’t explain why he provides this information, but it could be to help Timothy to correct the teaching of a woman who needed to learn.

          We know there were some people in the Ephesian church who were teaching the law (the first five books of the Bible) but didn’t know what they were talking about. (See 1 Timothy 1:7). We also know that there were some strange versions of Adam and Eve circulating in the early church. (See here.)

          Being created first is not a prerequisite for any kind of Christian ministry. Jesus plays down the significance of being first (“the first will be last”), as does Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12. More on this here.

          And Eve being deceived is not an impediment for ministry, including teaching ministry. Lots of women teach other women and teach children. The Bible nowhere suggests that women are more easily deceived than men. However, if deception is the problem, women should not teach anyone. More on this here.

          ~ Why does Paul use a rare Greek verb in 1 Timothy 2:12 that doesn’t not refer to ordinary or healthy authority? Also, no one is suggesting that anyone, men or women, should usurp the authority of another person.

          ~ And how does 1 Timothy 2:15 CSB fit with Paul’s instructions about a woman and a man in the Ephesian church? I write about verse 15 here.

          There are still more questions that can be asked about 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and about how to implement these verses. (More questions here.)
          __________

          I take 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in the Greek literally, and I take it seriously. It does not say that women cannot teach in church meetings. Paul had no problem with gifted and well-behaved women speaking in church. And note that churches were very different in the first century than church today; most met in homes and belonged to households. Some of these households were led by a woman. Women were among Paul’s ministry coworkers. And he does not silence the women who prayed and prophecied in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:5).

          Furthermore, the backstory, the context, of Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 is quite different from the context of Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. The church in Corinth and the church in Ephesus were experiencing their own sets of issues which Paul addresses in his letters to them. There are principles we need to heed in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 and 1 Timothy 2:8-15 but these passages are not Paul’s general teaching on ministry.

  20. Hi Marg,

    Thanks for this, I thought it was cleanly and simply covered.
    I have been teaching on the manifestations and grace gifts of the Holy Spirit, but verse 33-34…I know, will just eclipse things for some people, so I am glad I found a sound article to refer to and good link to add for their research.

    Good job! Thanks

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